California man detained, ticketed for eating sandwich on train platform

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO/CNN) - About 30 people gathered for lunch on a Bay Area Rapid Transit platform Sunday, but not because they were hungry.

They held a defiant lunchtime eat-in to support a man who had been handcuffed and cited for eating on a BART platform last week.

Video of the incident shows a BART officer telling Steve Foster he was detained and not free to leave.

“Bruh, you came up here and [expletive] with me,” Foster replied. “You singled me out, out of all these people.”

Foster, of Concord, said he was detained, even handcuffed by the officer because he was eating a sandwich while waiting for a train.

"I'm definitely upset, mad, a little frustrated, still kind of angry about it," Foster explained.

BART said state law prohibits people from eating or drinking in the paid portions of the station.

Law or not, Kelly Groth joined the protest and was passing out breakfast sandwiches Sunday for what she called “Brunch on BART.”

"People should be able to eat on the platforms and not get harassed," Groth stressed.

John Jacobo wanted to make sure he showed up and stood in solidarity. He said he’s eaten on the platform hundreds of times and watched hundreds of people do the same.

Janice Li, a member of the BART Board of Directors, surprised demonstrators by attending.

“If you have feelings, talk to me about it,” she told the crowd.

Li brought her own lunch and believes there are bigger issues to deal with.

“I realize that some things are illegal by California penal code, but I want to be mindful how we’re using resources to enforce our system,” Li said.

The full video shows that Foster did insult the officer and used a homophobic slur.

In a statement BART General Manager Bob Powers said the following:

"Moving 415,000 riders each day comes with complexities and there are laws in place to keep our system safe, welcoming, and clean.

I’ve seen the video of the incident involving a man eating on our platform and our police response. Eating in the paid area is banned and there are multiple signs inside every station saying as much. As a transportation system, our concern with eating is related to the cleanliness of our stations and system. This was not the case in the incident at Pleasant Hill station on Monday.

The officer asked the rider not to eat while passing by on another call. It should have ended there, but it didn’t. When the officer walked by again and still saw him eating, he moved forward with the process of issuing him a citation. The individual refused to provide identification, cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm throughout the entire engagement.

The officer was doing his job but context is key. Enforcement of infractions such as eating and drinking inside our paid area should not be used to prevent us from delivering on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation. We have to read each situation and allow people to get where they are going on time and safely.

I'm disappointed how the situation unfolded. I apologize to Mr. Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video.

I’ve spoken to our interim Police Chief about my feelings related to this incident and our Independent Police Auditor is conducting an independent investigation. He will report his findings to our Citizen Review Board."

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